Publications & Reports

More than saving lives: Qualitative findings of the UNODC/WHO Stop Overdose Safely (S-O-S) project.

Walker S, Dietze P, Poznyak V, Campello G, Kashino W, Dzhonbekov D, Kiriazova T, Nikitin D, Terlikbayeva A, Nevendorff L, Busse A, Krupchanka D


BACKGROUND: The Stop Overdose Safely (S-O-S) initiative-developed in compliance with WHO guidelines-aims to prevent opioid overdose deaths. Under the umbrella of this initiative a multi-country project was implemented in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine, that involved overdose recognition and response training, including the provision of take-home naloxone (THN). More than 14,000 potential overdose witnesses were trained and more than 16,000 THN kits were distributed across the participating countries. This paper reports on the qualitative component of an evaluation aiming to understand the views and experiences of S-O-S project participants. METHODS: Data were drawn from focus group discussions with 257 project participants from across all four countries, including people who use and inject drugs, and others likely to witness an opioid overdose. Data were analysed thematically. RESULTS: Findings revealed how past experiences of trauma and loss related to overdose death were common, as was appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the S-O-S training. Participants described how they shared knowledge and skills with others. Empowerment and destigmatising narratives featured prominently, and highlighted how for people who use drugs, feeling valued and cared about-not only by families and friends, but by health care providers, and sometimes police-was a positive outcome of their participation. Nevertheless, findings also revealed how real experiences of fear regarding police intervention was a barrier to carrying naloxone and intervening when faced with an overdose situation. CONCLUSION: Our analysis found that the S-O-S project produced positive outcomes that go well beyond saving lives. Despite identifying barriers to THN uptake, our findings support a growing body of evidence that broad access to THN as part of a continuum of care can enhance the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs and their communities, in low- to middle-income countries.

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  • Journal: The International Journal on Drug Policy
  • Published: 15/01/2022
  • Volume: 100
  • Pagination: 103482